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tv   CNN Presents  CNN  July 16, 2012 2:00am-2:30am EDT

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>> i enlisted. joined at 18 years of age. it was the height of the vietnam war era and really felt a sense of duty to my country to go and serve. >> i went straight to ft. bragg. it was just the thing to do. that was my obligation, my duty as an american. >> i was drafted and sent to fort sill and placed in the 85th missile detachment. we were supposed to be security guards for the nuclear warheads to go on the missiles. >> reporter: three american soldiers. tim joseph, frank rochelle, bill blazinzki. call to arms nearly a half century ago from different backgrounds, about to share an experience that would change each of their lives at edson arsenal military base. >> several doctors came and gave a presentation. >> they presented it as not
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everyone would be chosen. >> there would be a guaranteed three-day pass every weekend. >> three-day passes are the rule. >> no guard duty, no kitchen police. >> this is what we filled out. they asked you about your criminal background, if you drank, asked you about your parents and brothers and sisters, silly questions, did you like your mother better than you did your father? >> i took the test and got chosen and you got a couple days off at home and reported to edgewood for two months. >> when you got chosen, were you excited? >> yes. i was glad to go. it was like a plum assignment. you would get all the weekends off. the idea was they would test new army field jackets, clothing, weapons things of that nature. no mention of any drugs or chemicals. >> in the beginning, that's what we were told we would be doing testing equipment not testing drugs. >> reporter: but edgewood arsenal was testing drugs
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beginning in 1955. >> this is edgewood arsenal the united states chemical commodities center. >> reporter: this was the cold war and the united states wanted defenses against a possible soviet chemical attack. >> psychochemical attack may come in the form of an explosion, an invisible vapor, cloud of smoke. >> the u.s. was also developing psychochemical weapons of its own. >> here's a group of normal soldiers responding correctly to a group of routine drill commands. after receive ag small dose of lsd, they're confused and undisciplined. >> edgewood arsenal was where much of the research took place. using men like tim josephs. >> when i got there, it did not look like a military base, more like a hospital. >> describe it, what was it that you saw? >> everyone's in lab coats. some military doctors, i guess, and some were civilian doctors.
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they were well aware you were a private and they were a captain and up. i expressed my concern right from the beginning. they took me aside and said, you volunteered for this. if you don't do it, there's most likely prison and a dishonorable discharge. >> you were intimidated? >> yes. >> coerced? >> yes. >> forced? >> forced. >> you didn't sign up for this? >> no, not at all. >> i reported up there september the 3rd. that started my ordeal. i trusted the government and the army and we were assured we would not be harmed in any way. >> they said, don't worry. was that the right message for them to be giving you? >> not at all. >> you trusted them? >> sure. >> how about now? >> i don't trust them very much at this point.
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>> there's good reason for that n. the army was testing substances ranging from lsd to nerve gas, on human subjects. coming up -- >> private sadrogny received a high dose of the incapacitating agent. in 15 minutes, he won't be able to focus his eyes properly. >> what went on behind closed doors in the army's top secret testing program. edgewood arsenal. and the health problems these veterans say followed them from edgewood and haunt them to this day. by what's getting done. the twenty billion dollars bp committed has helped fund economic and environmental recovery. long-term, bp's made a five hundred million dollar commitment to support scientists studying the environment. and the gulf is open for business - the beaches are beautiful, the seafood is delicious. last year, many areas even reported record tourism seasons.
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it penetrates deep to block pain signals for hours of relief. capzasin-hp. take the pain out of arthritis. durring during the cold war, the u.s. military launched a top secret program to see what sometimes dangerous programs could do to the body and mind. veterans said they facinged health problems long after the drugs wore off and say the government has not lived up to its promise to take care of them. here again, dr. sanjay gupta. >> these are nen of baker company. a special volunteer troop detachment at edgewood arsenal, maryland. >> for 18-year-old army private tim josephs, the tests started almost as soon as he arrived at edgewood. home to a top secret military testing program using human subjects.
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>> sometimes it was an injection. other times it was a pill. >> did they tell you what it was? >> the drugs or chemicals were referred to as agent 1 or agent 2. one test i was involved with, i was pretty much out of it all day and that afternoon, i woke up with parkinson's symptoms immediately. >> you had tremor? >> and aching in this limbs and arms, a numbness. >> in this class, is a compound. >> bill was exposed to cs, tear gas, three times at edgewood. >> the gas chamber looks familiar from the first test i was in. >> this army film shows volunteers in the gas chamber at edgewood, exposed to cs? the effects were apparent almost at once. >> your eyes water, your nose runs, your skin burns. you start throwing up. it's a real mess.
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>> in another test, he received another test before being taken to another room with padded walls like this one. >> i'm sitting in the bed looking at the wall, looking at it and it starts fluttering like the flag does. >> careful control of these chamber tests resulted in a dose of only two parts per million. >> frank rochelle tested a similar drug in aerosol form. >> i leaned over into a face mask and inhaled and exhaled. >> a low dose of agent was fed into the mixing bowl. >> this film shows a sergeant at edgewood named carpenter undergoing the same kind of test. >> within an hour, carpenter's hands will feel cold and face hot. borderline hallucinations will come late in the experiment. >> like the soldier in the film, frank rochelle experienced hallucinations? people were calling my name and there was nobody around. there were animals coming out of the walls. it appeared all my freckles were
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bugs on my skin. i took a razor and i tried to cut some of them out. >> what was this business over here? lying down and looking at the ball? >> in all, some 7,000 military volunteers or more, were part of chemical tests at edgewood from 1955 to 1975. the military test at least 250 chemical and biological agents during the cold war, including potentially lethal nerve agents like vx and serin, incapacitating drugs, bz, bar bit ats, tranquilizers, narcotics and hallucinogens. this army film shows soldiers performing drills under the influence of lsd. >> notice the volunteer who saluting seven times, five minutes later, it ends his participation in the tests. >> reporter: army volunteers were ordered not to tell anyone about what happened.
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>> the thing about this program, you were told up front, you don't talk about this, you don't tell nobody about it. we couldn't even talk to our doctors and our physicians. >> it was hammered into us we were never supposed the talk about this. i was top secret. >> reporter: these days blazinsky says he's suffering from inflammatory bow eldisease and a condition of the blood. >> have breathing problems and nightmares and still remember and think about the tests. >> tim josephs has parkinson's disease and a condition that forced him to retire early. >> the whole thing stinks. americans, if they knew about it, would not tolerate it, this kind of behavior towards our veterans, they would not allow it to happen. >> attorney gordon erspalmer is suing the department of defense and veteran affairs on behalf of the edgewood veterans. >> what do you hope to get for them?
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>> they will get nothing other than perhaps medical care. they won't get any money. they wanted proper notice of the substances they received, doses and health effects. many were never notified of anything. they were mistreated and don't want to let this be swept under the rug and have everyone die and never see the light of day. that's why they're doing it. >> we wanted to talk about the lawsuit with the va and defense department. we declined to talk on camera citing pending litigation. they gave us a statement instead. the department of defense said it made it a priority to all service members exposed to chemical and biological substances. >> on the fighting front, it has been quiet today. >> the spokesperson said most veterans have never been contacted by the v.a. >> the v.a. doesn't want to know.
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>> the v.a. has denied almost all edgewo related health claims. >> our government has not fulfilled their duty. they have a duty to find and recognize every person and they've got a duty to give them medical treatment. >> they're hoping that we die off. you apply, you get turned on an it -- goes on for years and years, you get turned down. they want to use young men as guinea pigs and throw them away. >> it's worth reemphasizing the edgewood veterans are not asking for money specifically. although there are many delays in a case like this, in part, because of the difficulty tracking down old documents from so many years ago, it is likely to go to trial next year. up next, another form of injustice. veterans from iraq and
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hello, everyone. i'm poppy harlow. here are tonight's headlines. bad news for the president of syria. one of his most senior officials has defected and now he is talking. he was until a day ago the syrian ambassador to iraq. not anymore.
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he left his post, fled to another country and now supporting the rebels trying to throw out president bashir al assad. >> translator: the regime in syrian is a totalitarian regime and dictatorship. there is only one person who gives the orders, one person who is the president. >> fares talks exclusively to cnn from his secure location in qatar. syria's opposition is calling on president barack obama to intervene in his fight whether it hurts his re-election prospects or not. activists say he cannot wait for election day to prevent the violence. this plea comes on a day the capitol of damascus saw its haven't fighting yet. 50 people were killed in syria today according to activists. hillary clinton's trip to egypt did not end well. her motorcade was pelted with tomatoes and shoes. the mob chanted monica.
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clinton met with president morsi of egypt and encouraged egypt's newly elected president to keep pursuing reforms. those are the headlines this hour. cnn, the most trusted name in news. for far too many americans, the street is their home. a life bad enough for anyone but unforgivable when the struggling men and women have already risked their lives for their country. there are more than 8,000 homeless veterans living in los angeles alone. surprising when you consider there's a plot of land there, nearly 400 acres that was donated, free, just to build a home for vets. as dr. sanjay gupta discovers, tat land could have helped a vet he met in l.a.
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>> you're young. how old are you? >> 22, almost 23. >> almost 23. you are from this area originally? >> fernando valley, just over the hill. >> fresh out of high school, robert risman signed up to fight for his country. >> what makes an 18-year-old join the army? >> i wanted to go to college and make something of myself. the army said they'd pay for it. >> like a contract, i wail serve my country but my country will serve me? >> that's what i was hoping for. >> where did it begin to fall apart? >> it began to fall apart in iraq. >> you saw things you don't want to talk about. >> no. >> you probably never want to talk about? >> no. >> the war was winding down. robert's unit was busy with pa trolls. then a close friend died in a bridge collapse. >> i got back from iraq. i was having a lot of psychological issues, i guess you could say.
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>> post traumatic stress? >> post traumatic stress disorder. >> back home at fort carson in colorado, he started feeling like people were out to get him. a few months later someone discovered robert's sawed off shotgun hidden in his barracks. according to army papers, robert told investigators he was suicidal and at one point spent the day drinking and sat on the side of the bed with his gun in his mouth. >> i wish sometimes i died in iraq so my life would have meant something, you know. >> forced to quit the army, robert ended up homeless. >> i went through some pretty bad times when i first got out. i was doing a lot of methamphetamines, my drug of choice. i was smoking a lot of dope and i was getting in with some roug crowds.
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>> many of those rough crowds were made up of people just like robert, returninging veterans. as many as 1 in 3 soldiers returning from iraq or afghanistan suffers from traumatic brain injury, severe depression, substance abuse or ptsd. >> i was dealing with other people that weren't so nice. >> is that weird for you to hear? >> uncomfortable, actually. >> what happens when you hear a noise like that? >> it startles me a little bit. i know it's a truck. >> you see it everywhere you look. ex-soldiers like robert are desperate for steady care and housing. i was stunned about a piece of property set aside for this purpose, veterans for long term housing, literally across the street from the v.a. hospital.
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the story here actually dates back all the way to the 1880s. back then, the government wanted to create facilities for aging veterans of the civil war. former senator john p. jones and his friend, a glamorous heiress decided to donate all this land. back then, it was mostly ranch land. but today, just a few miles from the pacific ocean, it is some of the most valuable real estate in all of north america. >> it was solely an act of good will, an act of trying to take care of the veterans they had from the spanish american war and the civil war. >> carolyn na barry is descended from the heiress who made this gift and part of a lawsuit against the v.a. filed by the american civil liberties union. the original deed include a condition the land be used to establish and maintain a branch of a national home for disabled vets and a permanent home for
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thousands is exactly what it was. >> they had their post office. they had a trolley system that went all the way downtown to the beach. everything was provided for them. they had a special uniform. it was a marvelous place to live. the grounds were gorgeous. i mean, they were just gorgeous. >> mark rosen balm is the lead attorney for the aclu. >> at one point, this campus housed as many as 4,000 veterans. beginning with the vietnam war era, the vets were kicked out, literally kicked out. >> around 200 veterans live on the property today but none of them in permanent housing. alongside them, empty buildings, a public golf course, variety of public businesses-like a theater and bus depot. >> this land has been utilized for enterprise rent-a-car, marriott hotels.
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they know what this land's about. >> reporter: with veterans sleeping on l.a. streets, i decided to head to the v.a. to see why this land isn't used for their housing. >> people said, look, that property is not being used for that purpose. is that a legiti we've been investigating a story in los [ male announcer ] summer is here. and so too is the summer event. now get an incredible offer on the powerful, efficient c250 sport sedan with an agility control sport-tuned suspension. but hurry before this opportunity...disappears. ♪
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investigating a story in los angeles where there are more than 8,000 veterans without a home. really surprising when you consider there's land there
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specifically set aside to house homeless vets. why isn't that happening? dr. sanjay gupta went to l.a. to find out. >> i wanted answers, for men like robert risman. he's a 22-year-old former soldier, and now a recovering drug addict. he was diagnosed with ptsd. he's in transitional housing with no idea what comes next. he's just trying to get back on his feet. >> i had to steal food at one point because i had too much pride to ask anyone. i still have that kind of pride. >> for vets like robert, the aclu filed suit to try and force the v.a. to build housing on 400 acres of land that it was given back in 1888. at first we called the head of the v.a. they said, look, we can't comment on pending litigation. we called the department of justicho


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